Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rhyme Scheme Poem

Frozen Puddle                                             
By Max Maclay

Crystal planes across the ground
Where dirty puddles once were found.
How it happened, I don’t know,
But I investigate, with my toe.

A tiny sound, hairline crack,
Leads to an all-out attack.
Now I’m cold, full of regret

Because my foot is sopping wet.

Silly and Libelous Limerick
There was a curly-haired lass from Maine
Whose language was very profane
The kids rang a bell
Every time she said, “Hell,”
Or other words in that domain

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Cat Lap - Slice of Life 12-9-15

As my middle school students start to write some Slices of Life, I had better get my blog going as well.

During the winter months, my cat seeks out lap-warmth whenever I sit down the couch. Oh, she is relatively affectionate during other times but once the furnace has to kick on and a blanket is on my lap, it is usually a matter of seconds before fur-padded feet make a beeline for me.

With a meow, a circle, and a show of an upraised tail (usually from the backside, thanks cat) she snuggles into my lap. Petting is acknowledged with an upraised chin and purrs, so long as I don't rub her belly. Every fifteen minutes or so, she will roll over or turn around to put a cold part up against my legs or request some extra attention. It's cozy, comfortable and I feel only a little less guilty of getting up and disturbing her peace then I did when my daughter would fall asleep on my lap as a baby and I would avoid getting up for all but dire emergencies. It's not uncommon for my wife or I to excuse ourselves from the work of the moment or to ask a favor because, "I have cat lap." That explains it all for the other.

Below: a picture of daughter-cat-lap as we all cuddled and watched Doc McStuffins last weekend.

Monday, August 31, 2015

SOL September 1, 2015 - Back in the Thick of it!

It's the start of another school year and today will be the fifth day of actual school with my amazing students. This year is somewhat of an Even-Steven year for me. Counting my graduate degree, gained while teaching, I have eighteen years of education. I am starting my eighteenth year as a classroom teacher. I taught public high school science for nine years and am starting my ninth year as a core classroom teacher for 6-8th graders at a K-8 private school. I'm very curious to see what this year brings and what the next steps are for me as a teacher and learner.

It has been a very fun start to school and I'm feeling an excitement for teaching I have not felt in a few years. Everything goes through some ebbs and flows and it feels like things are starting to "flow" a little more easily right now in the classroom.

My class consists of twenty-three students 6th to 8th grade. I have thirteen students who have been in my class for one or two years already and ten students new to my class, although they are mixed across all three grades. I am their teacher for language arts, science, social studies, art, and most importantly, their individual units. They will have pull out math and electives a few hours each week that will cross over some of these topics, but most of their week is spent with me and my teaching associate (or co-teacher if you will). We do lots of hands on projects, go on trips to experience the world, and hopefully delve deeply into our passions, all while hopefully creating a safe community to be middle school students.

Here is a list of a few things we have done so far the first four days:

  • A little writing activity outside on the front lawn on the first day
  • A trip to the Botanic Gardens for some group time and field journaling
  • Set up blogs to create an online reading and writing community
  • Built aliens/superheroes with the other two middle school classes that both move and have special powers to help us this year
  • Had some time with our buddies, a class of 7-8 year olds in the classroom below us
  • Created a jumbo craft stick 'cobra' that stretched well over 100' around the class (see the video below)
  • Learned a couple of magic tricks to go along with the class unit of "Behind the Curtain." We will consider what something looks like on the outside, or things that could be magic, and then pull back the curtain to reveal what's really going on. Organisms on a cellular level, politics and spin, and asking/answering questions about things we don't actually understand.
Coming up we will start short stories, research individual units, and meet with the teachers who take the students on field trips related to their individual units.

It is wonderful to be this excited as I look ahead at the entire year! I hope all you teachers out there are having a great start to your respective school years as well!

Here is the craft stick video. A student went home and told his parents, "We learned about potential energy, kinetic energy and teamwork! It was awesome!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14, 2015 Haiku Poetry

Three haiku poems by Max


Tulips bowing deep
Cherry blossoms shaking loose
Banners are flying


Sunlight to flower
Flower becomes cottontail
Snake swallows itself


The first spring petals 
Contrast brightly on snow when
Vibrant blossoms fall

photo credit: via photopin (license)
photo credit: Everyday Is A Winding Road via photopin (license)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SOLSC March 31 - Time is a Treasure

Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at

"I think that's Drake and one of his daughters over there," Susan commented.

After checking the traffic in front of me I stole a quick glade to my left. Sure enough, two lanes over, was Drake and his teenage daughter in their white minivan. The name Meghan floated up from the depths of my brain and attached itself to the face that was several years older than when we had last seen it.

I gave my horn a couple of quick toots but they did not look over. The traffic slowed at a red light and  I had to pay closer attention to the cars around me. I gave one more try with the horn but they were engaged in their own conversation and that silly car moment of recognition and connection was missed.

How to spend the treasure that is time?

Drake's wife, Elizabeth, taught at the same school as Susan and Meghan was in Susan's class for fourth grade. Elizabeth and Drake were our walking buddies and we used to meet regularly at the park between our houses and walk a few mile-long laps on around the lake. We connected well, had some travel stories to tell, and laughter was easy and often. We shared the occasional meal with each other and they invited us a few times to their family's house in Grand Lake.

Then things changed because life changes. First the school where Susan and Elizabeth worked closed. This lead to Drake and Elizabeth's family moving to ensure the schools they wanted for their daughters. While they moved only ten minutes farther away, meeting at the park was not as convenient. We went over to their new house several times, even doing some walks from there around the big high school and parks in the area. Then Susan was pregnant and the walks could no longer be at the brisk fifteen-minute mile pace we were all used to. We had Clara the next summer. After all that, there were a couple of the mandatory baby viewings but them we were busy in a new way and our connection was too easily lost.

There is now a disc golf course in the park near their new house. I have been playing a round with friends there on Sunday afternoons. While I'm there I steal an occasional glance to see if they are walking along the path that winds along the edge of the course. I know it's a long shot since they are morning walkers but things do change.

Seeing Drake yesterday makes me think of all the people and things that are important but need the time taken to stay relevant. I'm lucky to have had a lot of friends but sadly, with most, I know what's going on with them due more to social media than due to getting together. I've had over a thousand students in my classes that I have loved and worked with and watched grow, and they too become faded memories all too quickly unless we keep a connection going. It's almost April, which means there are nine students of my twenty-three, who will soon be leaving my class for good. Four have been with me for three school years and the others are in their second year in my class. That's a lot of real-time hours we've spent together in the classroom and on trips, that email, Facebook and the occasional visit can not replace.

Today is the last day of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. It's the second year I've participated and completed it. Again, my students have blogged like stars and there are many who wrote for thirty-one days straight along with, and often ahead of me. I feel a lot of pride in myself and even more in them. I know I would not have done it except to be a model for them. It's an example of how my students continually push me to work at my own writing skills, the craft of teaching, and to be a better person.

Last year I did not keep writing as I wish I had after the SOLSC. I don't know what I will do this year.  As with many important things in life, I get to make the choice what I find time for.

I should find the time for a walk with Elizabeth and Drake.

photo credit: Time Pieces via photopin (license)

Monday, March 30, 2015

SOLSC March 30th - First Cast

Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at

The creek's simple music played upon my soul as the sun, not yet hot but warm in the cool breeze, heated my back. Some of the first butterflies wafted by, highlighted against the traces of left over snow on the far bank; water ouzels flew low along the creek, chirping their distinctive cries.

I tied on an elk hair caddis, basically a bushy bundle of elk hair on a hook, in the hopes that this attractor pattern would bring a spotted brown trout to the surface. Brown trout, especially under twelve inches, like the ones that inhabit this section of Bear Creek, are so pretty with their yellow tinged bellies, dark tops, and yellow and red spots. They tend to be voracious, good fighters, and they are always a wonderful first fish of the season.
Learning to tie a fisherman's knot.
After attaching the red and white bobber, I stepped back and smiled. The first cast belonged to her.
First cast of the season!

The fisher people take a rest to enjoy the music of the day!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SOLSC March 29 - What's in a Name?

Join me as I participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Other "Slicers" can be found among my students in the comments of my class blog. There are also several hundred teachers participating at

One night, three years before Clara was born, I had a dream. I heard footsteps come down the hallway, our door opened slowly and a child's voice gently called out, "Dad?"  I woke up immediately, full of emotion and hope, because my wife and I had been trying, for several unsuccessful years, to conceive. Eventually, with the help of medical technology, were blessed with Clara and there was finally someone to call me, "Dad," in the world.

Throughout my life, I've been called a lot of names; not just nasty ones but many variations of my own name, which is Max. Actually, my whole name is M-A-X. Not "So it's just Max," but it IS Max. Max is by far the most common moniker for me but I've also be called: Maxmillian, Maxwell, Shmaxwell, Max Headroom (I did grow up in the 80s), Mad Max, and even Beyond Thunderdome. Only a few people are allowed to call me 'Maxie' and they include my parents, my wife, and oddly, the catcher on my college baseball team. Everyone else who tries to call me 'Maxie' gets politely shut down.

As a teacher, I also get called a few names by my students, again, not just the nasty ones. For the first nine years of my professional life, I was called 'Mr. Maclay.' That was a little odd at first and while I would have preferred Max or even Mr. Max, that was not an option. Now I'm called Max by my students because our school is on a first name basis. But fun and slightly awkward moments arise when I get called Dad or even Mom by my students. And that brings us to an interesting point.

My daughter calls me Max. 

She knows I'm her dad, and did call me Dada early on. But when she was three, she found out that Mom and Dad had other names that were Susan and Max. She still calls Susan 'Mom' most of the time although she will pull out 'Susan' when she really wants her attention. 

But me, she calls Max over 90% of the time. 

She is the only person in the world who gets to call me Dad and I'm Max to her. It was somewhat cute at first, but at this point I wish I was Dad in name and not just in action. It doesn't really matter in the long run. I am her dad and she knows it. Our relationship is not any less special because of it; you might argue it's even more unique, but it does gnaw at me a little. Ironically, she mistakenly calls me, "Hey Mom! Ooops. Sorry...Max," more often than she calls me 'Dad." 

I guess that's just the way it is. She gets to be her own independent person and as long as she doesn't start calling me those other, nasty names, I guess I can live with it.